Guide to Becoming a Blockchain Developer | NKN

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blockchain engineer looking out of window

Becoming a Blockchain Developer: A Complete How to Guide

Blockchain technology has industry-disrupting capabilities. The disruptive brainchild of a mysterious person or a group of people known as Satoshi Nakamoto, it’s a time-stamped series of immutable pieces of data or records. 

A group of computers not owned by any single entity manages these records. As a result, the largest crowdsourced network is not governed by one central authority, making it, by definition, a truly democratized system.

Each block of data gets bound and secured to one another via the cryptographic principles of the chain. 

If you want to stay competitive amidst innovative leaders in a world of cutting-edge technology, then blockchain’s your ticket. Here’s NKN’s guide on how to become a blockchain developer.

Why Become a Blockchain Developer

There are plenty of reasons to become a blockchain developer. It’s a job that helps diverse businesses in various industries solve modern problems, making developers highly in demand. As a result, there are opportunities to work for prestigious companies and make good pay.

What Are the Different Kinds of Career Opportunities Available for Blockchain Developers?

There are two main types of blockchain developers, and they are 

1) Blockchain application developers, who use smart contract to build business logic

2) Blockchain core developers, who develop the core infrastructure and the blockchain node software itself.

Smart contract development has seen significant growth since the release of Ethereum. Today, every blockchain attempts to incorporate smart contract functionality into its system, permitting the application of business logic to blockchain. 

For developers transitioning into the blockchain field, understanding smart contract development is hugely beneficial. 

As you learn more about blockchain, including how to code blocks, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a blockchain engineer.

As a blockchain engineer, you’ll next validate the chain. This process permits you to make sure nobody has been messing with your blockchain, and it also lets you know the chain is valid. 

Once done, you can apply the blockchain to create your finished product. 

How Much Does a Blockchain Developer Make?

The demand for blockchain developers continues to grow, and salaries reflect this demand. Your average blockchain application developer makes between $127,000 and $172,000, depending on experience. 

As for blockchain core engineers, they can command even higher salaries. How much can they make? Between $150,000 and $175,000, and sometimes higher if they become part of the core team for a major blockchain project.

Who Hires Blockchain Developers?

Right now, the demand for blockchain techs continues to grow. There’s been a 90% increase in blockchain and cryptocurrency job postings within the past year. 

What are some of the top places to work? Companies actively hiring blockchain developers include:

  • Deloitte
  • IBM
  • EY
  • KPMG
  • Cisco
  • Accenture
  • JP Morgan Chase
  • Conduent
  • Microsoft
  • ConsenSys

As for the best cities to find work as a blockchain developer? They include San Jose, San Francisco, New York, Austin, Seattle, Denver, Boston, and Los Angeles. 

A busy street in San Francisco, one of the best cities to work as a blockchain developer.

A busy street in San Francisco, one of the best cities to work as a blockchain developer.

How Do You Become a Blockchain Developer?

Blockchain technology was developed to support the digital currency, Bitcoin. Since its inception, however, many new uses for the technology have emerged. 

Because it enables distributed or decentralized architecture, it represents the backbone for a new kind of internet. It also has implications that extend far beyond cryptocurrencies.

Think of blockchain as a shared yet unalterable ledger. That means the information in it is open for everyone to see. As a result, what gets built on blockchain is transparent, and everyone involved in the process remains accountable for their actions. 

In essence, Blockchain alone does not fix the problems with today’s internet. It is an enabler. For NKN, it essentially provides the incentive system as well as security capabilities.

How can you get in on the blockchain action? Deciding to become a blockchain developer will undoubtedly put you on the right path. You’ll have to follow specific steps to get there, however.

Be prepared to commit both time and resources to your education. It won’t happen overnight. If you take the time, learn your course materials, and achieve a high level of knowledge, you’ll be well-positioned to work in blockchain. 

That said, once you dive into the coursework, you’ll soon find there are also many similarities between a blockchain developer and a web developer.

With some dedicated studying, you’ll be able to take advantage of this industry-disrupting tech before you know it.

Learn more from other established developers by joining our forum on a New Kind of Network.

What Does a Blockchain Developer Do?

Blockchain developers should have a firm grasp of fields such as:

  • Cryptography
  • Computer networking
  • Data structures
  • Algorithms

They should also have experience engaging with one type of blockchain, such as Ethereum or Bitcoin.

These individuals use different programming languages (i.e.e C++, Python), to create blockchains. They craft smart contracts for decentralized applications, and they work on patterns and security features. 

They should also have enough knowledge to build cryptocurrencies using blockchain concepts. That said, there are divisions among blockchain developers when it comes to what each handles. 

Understand the Blockchain Fundamentals

You need to spend some time becoming familiar with various concepts that are crucial components of the system. Make sure you have a thorough understanding of the following concepts:

  • Blockchain
  • Decentralization
  • Consensus mechanism
  • Miners

Blockchain is a string (or chain) of data pieces (blocks). Each of these blocks contains immutable units of data. It’s also cryptographically secure and tamper proof.

The term decentralization refers to the fact that blockchain has no central authority supervising it. Instead, a consensus mechanism resolves specific issues when there is disagreement among different parties.

Miners are users who rely on their computational power to “mine” for blocks. To do this, you need to join a network and become a node.

You can do this from anywhere. Before you start, take the time to learn more about how mining works

These are just a few of the concepts with which you need to be familiar. They are widely used in the crypto-sphere and will come up repeatedly as you study blockchain technology. 

Understand the Technical Blockchain Fundamentals

Besides familiarizing yourself with the terms above, you should understand some of the more technical aspects of blockchain.

For example, if you’re interested in learning more about a fin-tech application, then you’ll need a grasp of the ins and outs of crypto-economics.

While many users have a working knowledge of the “crypto” side of things, make sure you understand the “economics” portion of this term, too.

A blockchain developer reads the newspaper to understand contemporary economics.
A blockchain developer reads the newspaper to understand contemporary economics.

This knowledge of economics will set you apart from others in the field, helping you to craft decentralized finance (DeFi) products. For this reason, we also suggest reading up on economics and financial engineering. 

If you’re interested in the public-key cryptography side of things, then research cryptography and how it works. That way, you’ll be ahead of the curve once you begin taking courses. 

Besides researching areas of interest within the study of blockchain, it’s also critical that you have a strong knowledge of how bitcoin works. Why? Because bitcoin remains the most elegant and widespread application of blockchain. 

Some blockchain specialists even go so far as to classify bitcoin as the best example of what’s achievable with blockchain because of the measurable impact that it has had, both in terms of economics, technology, and adoption.

Looking for a great way to bone up on this topic? For starters, check out Satoshi Nakamoto’s Bitcoin whitepaper.

Already a developer? Get started with a New Kind of Network for developers.

Get Familiar with Blockchain Processes

The next step in your journey towards becoming a blockchain developer is learning the hands-on process. You’d be amazed how many developers start with a head full of learning but next to nothing in the experience department.

Don’t let this be you. Instead, start getting acquainted with the system today.

How? Go to a cryptocurrency exchange and buy some coins. This action will clue you in on what it’s like to purchase cryptocurrency without having to invest in a whole portfolio. The largest exchanges are Binance, Coinbase, and Luno. Some popular wallets are Metamask, Trezor, and Electrum. If you don’t want to spend money to purchase any coins, you have a few options:

  • Ask one of your friends who already owns cryptocurrency to gift you a small amount of coins
  • Some exchanges (e.g coinbase, let you earn some free coins if you go through some online cryptocurrency training course
  • You can get free testnet coins (have no value) via faucet function of different projects

*Tip: For developers, sometimes it is better to start with a testnet since buying coins on exchange is not that straightforward. This also helps you deal with volatility.

You’ll get to practice creating and using an online wallet, which proves a straightforward and simple task. You’ll also be able to access this wallet from any device or server connected to the internet. 

That said, you need to keep in mind one of the biggest challenges when it comes to maintaining your privacy. When you log in on another server, it saves the private key to your online wallet.

In other words, you’re more or less serving your wallet up to hackers with a shiny red bow. As a result, you never want to use an online wallet to store significant amounts of cash. Just keep the bare minimum for exchange purposes. 

As you learn more about keeping a basic online wallet, you’ll eventually develop a more extensive portfolio as well as learn how to utilize cold wallets for storing your money. You can practice how to send coins between online (hot) wallet and cold wallet.

You’ll also be able to craft your first blockchain applications, which will allow you to apply the knowledge you’ve gained about how wallets and multi-sig wallets work. 

By dabbling online with a cryptocurrency exchange, ou can learn how it works and become a pro at using wallets. This is quite important, since you will gain a user’s perspective of cryptocurrency. And those users will become your users, once you develop your own blockchain application.

Learn to Code

Being well-versed in programming languages is a skill critical to becoming a blockchain developer. 

Although many people mistakenly think of C++ as outdated, it works seamlessly with blockchain. Satoshi Nakamoto even wrote the Bitcoin source code in C++. But most modern blockchains, like NKN, are built with Go language (Go for short). It enjoys a similar level of high efficiency as C++ while avoiding many potential risks like illegal pointers and memory leaks. Ethereum is written in C++, Go, Python, and Solidity.

Coupled with CSS and HTML, Javascript is one of the three core technologies used in the production of the World Wide Web, especially for highly interactive web pages. Javascript will be useful for web applications for blockchain.

But if you want to program smart contracts, then you will probably need to learn a new language such as solid which is used by Ethereum.

Once you become a blockchain developer, you’ll face plenty of challenges associated with creating and maintaining a public blockchain. These challenges include:

  • Security issues
  • Resource management
  • Performance requirements
  • Isolation
  • Continuity and backward compatibility
  • Difficulty in system level testing

Let’s dive into each of these potential problems more thoroughly, starting with security.

Security Issues

Blockchains work like a fortress, actively protecting millions and millions of dollars. 

Because the code is public, anyone can look at it to check for potential vulnerabilities. Of course, finding a weakness in blockchain comes with massive consequences, as those millions and millions of dollars are at stake.

As a result, blockchain programming is a time-consuming, tedious process. That’s why blockchain generally develops very slowly. Some core developers gave a rough estimate of 5-10% effort spending on coding the features, while 90-95% effort on fending off various forms of attacks.

Resource Management

When you become a blockchain developer, you’ll also have to make resource management a top priority. 

Developers need to pay special attention to all resource usage, including CPU, RAM, networking i/o, disk i/o, and disk space use. When the blockchain network reaches a large scale, all these resource usage might increase exponentially. For a primer on linearly scalable blockchain technology, please check out “An NKN Odyssey: A Billion Nodes with Dr. Zhang”. 

Resource management can also decide how many and what type of computers can join the public blockchain network. It can translate to the cost of running such computers on a monthly basis, e.g. miners rent virtual machines on cloud computer platforms like AWS, google cloud, Microsoft Azure, and DigitalOcean.

Performance Requirements

Performance requirements refer to the fact that blockchain technology must always perform at its highest capabilities. To do this, the system architecture, design and implementation must prove highly efficient and versatile. 

You’ll also need to pay close attention to which tasks are “parallelizable” and which ones are not. For example, it’s okay for a digital signature certification to be parallelized. The transaction, key, and signature all get verified in a parallel manner.

However, you should never approach transaction execution in this way. Why not? You could end up with double spends and other errors. 

The takeaway? Some languages work well when it comes to parallel operations, while others do not. Make sure you understand the difference. 

Isolation

Deterministic behavior refers to circumstances that always result in the same outcome. For example, a + b = c. “C” will always be the answer to a + b. 

In blockchain development, all transaction operations must be deterministic. Put another way, you can’t have a transaction operating one way today and another way tomorrow.

The same goes for different machines. All operations must function the same way no matter the device used. 

Here’s where isolation comes into play. You can isolate your transactions and smart contracts from non-deterministic elements. 

Continuity and backward compatibility

Once the public blockchain mainnet is launched, there is no going back. Even though the developers need to continuously update the software to add features, fix bugs, and fend off attacks, we need to honor the historical data in the blockchain database since this represents the ownership of crypto assets (wallet balance) and financial obligations between users (smart contracts).

So software upgrades need to provide continuity and backward compatibility, which is the prime model of updates.. However when this is no longer feasible, there are mechanisms called soft and hard forks which will introduce non-compatible changes to both the database structure and algorithms. However, even during hard forks, ownership of financial properties are preserved.

Difficulty in system level testing

Blockchain software is decentralized software by nature, which makes it very difficult to test in a lab or controlled environment. There are a few main reasons:

  • Miners might run totally different software versions
  • Even if miners run the same version of software, they might be running on vastly different hardware platforms and operating systems
  • The network connection between blockchain nodes can vary greatly in terms of throughput, latency, and frame error rates

Therefore developers typically set up multiple testing networks (called devnet or testnet), in order to emulate the real production system (mainnet) and reproduce potential bugs. And as a best practice, developers typically involve community members (miners and community developers) to help test out a new version of blockchain software before releasing to the general public.

Create Your Own Blockchain

Once you reach this stage in the game, you’ll need to understand concepts such as the genesis block, adding blocks, and validating the chain. Let’s start with the genesis block.

As the name indicates, the genesis block is the first block of the blockchain. Unlike the other blocks in the chain, which all “point” to the one before, the genesis block “points” to nothing. 

To create a new chain of blocks, you’ll need to start by invoking a genesis block. You can do this by utilizing a specific “Create Genesis Block” function. Then, you’ll need to add blocks to your newly created chain. 

To do this, you’ll need to start at the end by using the “Get Last Block” function. Why start at the end? Because each block must include the hash of the previous block. That way, you ensure the chain remains immutable. 

As you continue adding blocks to your chain, compare the previous hash value of each new block with the hash value of the previous one. If the values match up, it proves the legitimacy of the new block and gets added to the blockchain.

Ready to become a blockchain developer? Check out our tools for developers at a New Kind of Network.

You as a Blockchain Developer

Two blockchain developers review code together on a laptop computer.
Two blockchain developers review code together on a laptop computer.

Are you ready to learn blockchain technology? There are few better ways to stay on the cutting edge of today’s technology than taking a full leap into becoming a blockchain developer. 

Fortunately, while you can gain plenty of real-world experience online with blockchain, you don’t have to go it alone. We offer the resources you need to launch a career in this exciting field. Find out more about who we are and what we do.

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